PM snubs Mulford, calms Left feathers

The Prime Minister turned down demands for his recall following his controversial actions.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 23:23 IST

In a balancing act of humouring crucial allies -- the Left parties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday snubbed US Ambassador David Mulford.

At the same time, the Prime Minister turned down demands for his recall following his controversial actions.

He dismissed criticism over the Muslim headcount in Armed Forces and the charge of appeasement by creation of a separate ministry for minority affairs.

He also deprecated attempts to play politics over the cartoon issue and asked political parties to exercise "utmost restraint".

Winding up the debate on President's address in Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister sought to assuage the Left members who had demanded recall of Mulford for his letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattarcharya.

The West Bengal Chief Minister had earlier criticised President George W Bush by saying "I share the sentiments of the members."

The motion of thanks to the address was adopted by the House by a voice vote after negating Opposition amendments.

The External Affairs Ministry had told Mulford that he should adhere to established diplomatic protocol and avoid recurrence of such incidents in future.

"I share the sentiments of the members. But my own feeling is that the action we have taken would suffice for the time being," he told a CPI-M member who wanted a strong message that the Government would not put up with such acts.

In his 45-minute reply, boycotted by BJP after his attack on NDA Government's "divisive agenda", Singh rejected the Opposition charge that there were two centres of power and that he was a "weak" PM. "I should be judged by my performance and I secure my strength from my work".

However, he made it clear that the foreign policy was guided by "utmost national interest" and counselled the critics that it has to keep changing in tune with the dynamics of the changing world.

Apparently, he has reserved his views on the Iran issue and the nuclear deal with the US for the debate on Thursday and next week respectively.

In a rebuttal of the statement of a UP minister who announced a reward a Rs 51 crore for the head of the Danish cartoonist, Singh said "we have greatest respect for all religions."

He further added, "India's commitment to tolerance is unshakeable but statements by some sections of our people is not acceptable."

"I am sure all political and religious leaders would do nothing to inflame public opinion and exercise utmost restraint in a democratic way to make our point of view reasonably restrained."

On economy, Singh declared that the Government's mantra would be to hold the price line and generate employment.

Singh said that India shines for all and expressed confidence that the economy would clock an annual growth rate of 8 to 10 per cent.

Allaying concerns over the decision to import wheat, he said it was taken as a precautionary measure and assured the House that the Government would do nothing to hurt farmers.

On airports' modernisation over which the Left parties have been sharply critical, the Prime Minister said Government has no objection to any kind of discussion.

First Published: Feb 22, 2006 22:17 IST